Name a Chelsea youth player who, although undersized, dazzled with his pace and skill and was sent out on loan, only to languish and see his career stagnate. Gaël Kakuta, perhaps. Or Islam Feruz. Maybe even Charly Musonda Jr., currently stuck on Celtic’s bench.
Mason Mount? No sir. Not just “no”, but an emphatic no, actually. The Chelsea youngster fits the profile in all ways but one, the most important one; he’s thriving at Vitesse Arnhem.
“The decision to go out on loan was talked about way before I came here but I think it was the perfect step to go to Vitesse. I think my dad and my family have been very happy with the choice I made.”
In a long and excellent interview with Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella (recently a guest on our good friends, the London is Blue Podcast, in case you missed that). Chelsea’s 19-year-old midfielder covers everything from his start in professional football, to his influences, his goals and the work he’s doing to improve his game. After reading it, you come away filled with hope that the youngster could be that rarest of things, a youth who breaks into Chelsea’s first team.
He’s on the first loan of his career, to (Chelsea farm club) Vitesse Arnhem, and it started out the same way so many of Chelsea’s other loans have started — with the player parked on the bench. But Mount didn’t put his head down.
“It has been a massive learning curve for me, coming from an academy to a professional league. At the start of the season, I found it hard because I wasn’t playing as much as I wanted. I knew that would be what would happen because I came from the Under-19 Euros and I came in late.
”It was hard, I sat on the bench when we played away at Ajax and it was very frustrating for me because I just wanted to play. It is hard to take, but that’s football and that’s what I learned from coming here. You have got to fight for your position.”
After watching five of Vitesse’s first six games, Mount began to regularly come on as a sub in October, and got extensive time in Europa League group-stage matches. But it was on November 26th that the dam broke. Coach Henk Fraser gave him a start against ADO Den Haag, he got an assist and since then he’s played every minute in every Eredivisie match. That’s sixteen starts in a row and counting.
It’s paid off for player and club. Mount has 7 goals (that’s third on Vitesse), 4 assists and ranks in the Dutch league’s top 10 for key passes. At 175cms (5’ 8”) and 64 kg (140 lbs) the youngster, who played as a #10 for Chelsea but is used in central midfield and wide for Vitesse, says bulking-up is on the list of things he’s working on.
“I am working on my finishing. I want to score more goals and make more assists. That’s definitely my target: make as many goals and assists as I can. I work on my finishing with my right and left foot, my corners, free-kicks and my all-round game.
”But I also work on the physical side. I am not a big physical player so I rely on my quick footwork and movement, but I think that’s a side that I am working on. I want to get bigger and stronger.”
Did someone says free kicks? Here’s one he scored from 35 yards out.
He’s an ambitious player too. His role models are the absolute best in the game.
“When I was growing up and playing for Chelsea, Frank Lampard is someone that I would always watch. He is a goalscoring midfielder. I was watching his games, his goals and how he arrives into the box. He is always in the right position, so that’s something I try to look at and emulate.
”Also Luka Modric and Andres Iniesta; I think they are definitely top, top players. I always try to watch their games and take little bits from them.”
It all sounds very promising. The fact remains, however, that making the jump from loan player to Chelsea first-teamer is hard and rarely happens. But if past is prelude, then consider the challenge Mount was willing to take on simply by coming to Chelsea as a youth, instead of going to his childhood club Portsmouth.
“When I went on trial at Chelsea, it was like a year ahead of me. Their players were much better, the competition was much more intense and you could tell that it was different.
“It was a hard decision to choose Chelsea over my boyhood club, the team I grew up supporting and lived close to. But it was definitely the best decision that I have made. I think that was definitely the turning point for me.
”The improvement and development I made at Chelsea from a young age has turned me into the player that I am now.”
If that’s his mindset, if no challenge is too big, then maybe he has the thing so many talented young players lack: the drive and maturity to maximize his talent. Maybe Chelsea isn’t a step too far for him.
He’s already played on the big stage, after a fashion. He was named the Golden Player when he led England to the U19 European Championship last summer. And although Vitesse finished last in their Europa League group, Mount also relished his time on Europe’s second biggest stage.
And he doesn’t want it to stop there, showing proper levels of ambition for all his youth.
“My goal is to play at the highest level I can. To get to the top, that’s the goal of every young football player. I want to play in the Champions League; that’s the pinnacle of club football. I am working towards that. I am working hard in training every day to achieve that.
“So, my focus is at Vitesse until the end of the season and then I will go back to Chelsea and we will see what happens.”
Like every loanee, he wants to come back and play for Chelsea. All prior evidence to the contrary, we’re certainly not betting against him.